Coming: your new VONS on Broadway - photo: courtesy Urbanize

YOU CAN’T STOP THIS ONE

The monster coming to plant itself at the already very busy intersection of Lincoln and Ocean Park. And this 10-building project (ugly buildings too, in my opinion), nearly a million square feet, will take out all the community-serving businesses there now – UPS store, pharmacy, low cost haircuts, sushi restaurant, dry cleaners, nail salon, optical store, pet supplies, the full-size Gelson’s supermarket.

It will sit there forever, a gigantic monument to our political leaders here and especially in Sacramento, who have declared (and written into law) that buildings/housing units matter more than local residents and their quality of life. Local zoning control has been tossed aside for the “greater good” (as Sacramento sees it) of more, and more, and more housing. In Santa Monica: disproportionately and inappropriately.

I’m reminded of the song, “Looking for love, in all the wrong places.” Or a twist on Dr. John: “It must have been the right time, but the wrong place.” (Followed in that song by a sentiment I’ve heard from too many locals: “Wonder which way do I go, to get on out of here?”

THESE ARE NOT BUILDINGS

For local residents, for the most part, except those affordable units. So we are building 470 expensive units, for people who don’t live here but want to. Or as an investment, that may sit vacant. To get the 50 for locals (maybe), unhoused or otherwise in need of affordable shelter (we hope). I never hear any mention of the many longtime residents who have had to leave Santa Monica for good, because of being Ellised out of their rent controlled apartments, or through other effects of gentrification. They are now scattered to the winds, but should have a place in line for these affordable units. Head of the line.

At that rate, even if we built dozens of these, which has been suggested (do the math), say, seven dozen, we would wind up with about 4,200 affordable units – less than half of what CA has ordered SM to build in the next seven years. But then we also would have to deal with almost 47,000 new market rate units. Which could more than double our current population. In seven years. Is that a picture of the Santa Monica you want to live in? But that has been the operating rationale for years in this city, that I have decried, a horrendous, pretty much insane, I would say, “solution” to a real problem – affordability.

I COULD GO ON

But all these are some in my box of biases, coming not out of any inherent prejudice for any particular group or person, but from digging out information for a decade, lots of meetings, lots of talking to people across the spectrum, to come up with my analysis of the reasons behind all that is happening here to so radically change Santa Monica. Biases based on facts and informed speculation.

We all have biases. The trick is to first acknowledge them, then be able to proceed with an open mind, by setting them aside. Put that box under your chair, and sit down for three hours to listen to the “community input” meeting, hosted last week by the development team for this project, as I did.

I COULD BE WRONG

It has happened. (Rarely, of course.) I’ve never found any shame in being wrong. It’s how you learn. I went into that forum eager to learn. Not about any of the details, which have long been settled, but for insight into the thinking of those “on the other side.” True believer, or disingenuously pushing an agenda? Both probably, I decided, But it’s the former I find interesting, and hard to fathom. Maybe I’m missing something. If they can have the same open mind, we should talk. We should always try to understand where the other viewpoint comes from, no matter how foreign or off putting. But that has become so difficult these days.

MORE THAN 500

People participated in that zoom forum, so clearly, many people have finally noticed the recent flood of development, and are moved to action in a new way. SMDP reporter Clara Harter gave a good reporting of the meeting in Monday’s paper.

There were many Ocean Park residents commenting, and only a handful overall were in favor of the project. But they (True Believers or Agenda Pishers?) were enthusiastic. One pressed the team on whether or not they had used every possible square inch of allowed space, and several called for many more of these in Santa Monica – 12, 18, dozens! It is hard for me to see how anyone could not see the obvious terrible effect of doing that to a city of 92,000, 8.4 square miles, boxed in by borders and the sea. But “density!” as a solution to the burdens of overpopulation is a fierce belief system. Maybe I’m missing something.

There is much more to tell, to those who haven’t had the time or inclination to follow these developments for years, but are now aghast at what they see coming, and wanting to get informed, and involved. A drive, or walk, or bike ride – be careful! very dangerous on Lincoln – north from Ocean Park Boulevard, up Lincoln (“the Great Wall of Lincoln,” especially north of the freeway) to the Vons supermarket (also coming down, for another massive apartment building), would have told you: it’s headed south, this overdevelopment beast, and it is still very hungry. Who’s next? Hint: look for any parking lot in town, and let your imagination go up five or six stories.

We’re fighting a lot of money and political power on this. I think the only way those of us who believe Santa Monica can develop in a far less destructive way, is for a whole lot of us, starting with the 500, to begin talking, reasonably, respectfully, even lovingly, with our neighbors, our brothers and sisters on this beautiful blue planet. Change minds, one at a time.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com